Scout makes 3D printer prosthetic limbs in Mexico

6 minutes
Mariana Elizalde Cano assists with prothetic limp

Mariana Elizalde Cano, a 23-year-old Scout from Mexico, became a Messenger of Peace Hero in 2021 in recognition of her remarkable work in producing and donating over 160 prosthetic arms across Mexico using her home 3D printer. Mariana, a biomedical engineering student, is passionate about technology and the breakthroughs it can achieve to better the lives of people around the world. She spoke to World Scouting about her amazing achievement.


Mariana Elizalde Cano: It all started when I bought a 3D printer for my home. As a biomedical engineering student and Scout, I am passionate about two things: technology and helping people.

It fascinated me to learn that you can create just about anything using 3D printing. I was curious to put this to the test and create something that could help people in my country: Mexico.

I recently learned that about 170,000 of the people in Mexico need a prosthetic limb but cannot afford one. It astonished me that such life-changing technology was unobtainable to so many people because of cost.

Then I thought to myself that I would love to produce something that would have a profoundly positive impact on others, so I began studying 3D printing software and I did a lot of research on the technical aspects behind making prosthetics. After considering the time and costs required, I proposed my idea to a few of my university friends and they were immediately interested.

Girls holds plastic water bottle with prosthetic arm

Launching “Hand by Hands”

While doing our research, we came across an organisation in the United States made up of volunteers who donating prosthetic limbs that they had made using 3D printers. We contacted them and they were happy to share with us their experience and best practices. As our project was similar to theirs, they even gave us different prototypes to test in Mexico. It is remarkable what happens when you ask for help!

After we developed our designs, we needed people to know about our project so that could test our project and make adjustments according to people’s needs. With my team of five people, we created pages for our project on Facebook and Instagram and soon people started contacting us asking if we could take their measurements!

We learned a lot from people’s feedback and testing. This allowed us to modify our designs to fit people comfortably and ensure that the prosthetics functioned perfectly.

People who needed a prosthetic were given one free of charge. Seeing their reactions motivated us even more to continue this work. 

Support from our community

We never imagined that the project would grow so quickly. We started to receive calls from people from across the country who needed for a prosthetic for themselves or a family member. We were taking orders, measurements, scaling the prototypes, testing, and refining prosthetics each day. 

It takes around two weeks for someone to receive their final piece, as we print each layer and part separately. The more we printed, the more requests we received.

We are forever grateful to our community, who supported us in many ways. We received a generous grant from a university to continue printing and expanding our operations.

A disability rehabilitation centre in my city partnered with us and kindly offered us a dedicated space in their centre to receive people, making it much easier for us to welcome patients, take measurements, and start the process that would change their lives. Through the centre, we complemented our prosthetics with free psychological support and physiotherapy.

It was emotionally overwhelming but it made us extremely happy to hear positive responses from individuals and their families. Among them was a shy 15-year-old boy who would hide his missing hand. We made a prosthetic for him and he immediately gained new confidence.

Two men shaking hands

Peace building and the sustainability of our project

I’m continuously learning through this project. It has made me more humble. I learned that I am capable of doing amazing things, so it reinforced my belief in myself. 

Although we faced some challenges — like having to work extra hard to prove our credibility because we are a group of young people —, we stayed motivated because we could see the difference that we were making. Knowing that we were changing people’s lives was very rewarding.

For the future, my vision is to create a civil society organisation out of this project that can receive more funds and help more people. I would like us to expand our project into printing lower limb prosthetics for people suffering from diabetes risks and amputations of lower limbs.

To me, peacebuilding means giving to and helping people who need it and creating a network for others who want to help to achieve greater impact.

I have always enjoyed being of service to others and with Scouting, I have been inspired to become a leader. Scouting has given me the courage to initiate and lead a project as powerful as this. 

I believe that young people can do amazing things, so use whatever you’re good at to make a difference. Just take the first step and doors will open along the way and the right people will come along and help you out. People want to help and they will find you if you are willing.


Messengers of Peace connects young peacebuilders together in a global network and inspires them to play leadership roles and become active citizens in their communities. Since 2010, the initiative has involved nearly all 173 National Scout Organizations and empowered Scouts to lead more than 16 million community development projects, delivering over 2.5 billion hours of service towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

To award her leadership and innovation, Mariana was named a Messenger of Peace Hero in 2021, recognised by her National Scout Organization and World Scouting for her initiative towards her community. The award recognised the service and actions of young people across five categories related to the SDGs: environment, peace-building, life skills, health and well-being, and COVID-19 response. Mariana’s remarkable initiative promoted healthy lives and wellbeing for all at all ages through urgent action to tackle an issue in her community and helped others with their physical and mental health.

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